Claire and Julia have a money box that is a tin with a coin slot in the lid. It is stuffed full of coins of various currencies. I had watched without necessarily registering that this money box joined mama and baby polar bear, green snake, rainbow monkey, kangaroo and the rest as they travelled on a sled made of a throw rug into the bedroom. When I went to clean the toys out of the bedroom just now, I picked up the throw rug and tossed the animals into the toy corner.

The money box, of course, fell out and landed on its edge on my left big toe.

Wow! Pain! It is so large when it comes at you like that with no warning. I bit my hands trying not to scream. It was so big and sparkly and painful! Like a fire that grew and grew. Most shamingly, there’s not a mark on me. It didn’t break the skin and no bruise has come up yet. Jeremy thinks I may have broken the bone. I doubt it, because I can move the toe, but dear God it really hurt.

Julia was most anxious. She looked into my face trying to understand what I was feeling, and then she started to cry and hold her own big toe. The origins of empathy; mirroring my body with her own. Which of course makes me wonder where the mommas of McCain and Palin’s most rabid supporters went wrong. I’m not a particularly nice woman, and I am lazy, but if my not-yet-three-year-old can already grasp theory of mind, why can’t the Republicans knock it off with the death threats?

Do they really not care about other people?

The election has been excruciating, of course, with occasional glimmers of exhilaration. One of the most frustrating aspects is that I feel I can’t fully revel in the professionalism and elegance and grace and style of the Obama campaign while I am still so deeply afraid that Obama might lose. If you’re overseas I am not sure I can convey just how gut-wrenching and painful and terrifying the last eight years have been in the USA; how impossible it is to forget the dust and ash of the terror attacks, and how unbearable it is to read about Americans torturing their prisoners.

Right now everyone’s obsessed with the economy, including me, and I can talk at lucid and informed length about the ways in which Bush and McCain and Gramm are directly responsible for the banking disaster. But the issue for me is always the war. It was the war in 2004 and it is the war today. Stockbrokers may be losing their shirts but soldiers and civilians are losing their limbs, and their sight, and their sanity. And their lives.

I hoped but did not really believe that Kerry could win in 04, and I hope much more fiercely that Obama will win this year, because while Kerry would have been a decent president I think Obama can be a fine one, a great one. Empathy again: I look at him with his fantastic wife; I look at how tender he is with his own children and those of other people; I admire his cool strategy and steely nerve; and I want so badly for other people to see in him what America is capable of, what people here can be.

He is from my America, my California liberal arts colleges and East Coast Ivy Leagues, the Chicago I love, the community organizers I’d like to be when I grow up, my whole mixed-up muddled-up shook-up world. I know that in Australia and England and elsewhere you all look at what goes on here with horror. I completely understand. I am horrified myself.

But Cheney shooting a man in the face, and making the victim apologize – rich men whining about selling their private jets, when poor people have no health insurance – when cancer spells bankruptcy for even affluent families – that’s not all America is. It’s also a nation of Sanctuary Cities and the Winter of Love and eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling. It is a moneybox stuffed with coins, and it is an unprotected toe.

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